How the Strategic Application of Storage Can Help Lower Data Center TCO

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The technology industry is experiencing a drastic shift in the volume of data to be managed and where those assets are being stored. Technologists have referred to this shift as the data explosion. And even as information volumes grow exponentially, business leaders are expecting increased agility to use their data to do more things, more quickly and more affordably.

Symantec’s 2012 Digital Information Index. provides some context: Globally, 46% of all business data is stored outside the firewall, and while mobile devices account for some of that, the cloud represents a major portion of enterprise data storage. This is also confirmed by IDC’s 2012 Public Cloud IT spending forecast. According to their research, public cloud IT spending will grow from current levels of US$40 billion to approximately US$100 billion in 2016—growing at a rate five times that of the IT industry overall.

As demands placed on cloud data centers continue to grow, facility operators will have to contend with keeping total cost of ownership (TCO) low while maintaining high performance, reliability and security.

The Data Explosion: Contributing Trends
Symantec’s research is indicative of one overarching movement: Business data is shifting beyond the physical walls of an enterprise and into cloud storage solutions. According to the report, 20% of all corporate data in North America is stored in the cloud, and that statistic is already past 30% in some countries.

Data center planners must also contend with the ever-increasing volume of data, and the entertainment industry is a prime example of how volumes of digital assets can increase exponentially. A 2012 report by Coughlin Associates, for instance, predicted a 5.6× increase in digital storage demand from the entertainment sector over the next several years, bringing total storage use to 84 exabytes by 2017.

While analysts didn’t provide exact estimates for how much would be migrated to the cloud, they said that cloud storage solutions have become crucial for entertainment professionals. The push toward cloud services can also be seen in the success of streaming video offerings such as Netflix and UltraViolet.

The needs of video content providers might seem unique, but migrating video to the cloud presents challenges similar to those found in the evolving business ecosystem. As technology improves, video quality increases, creating growth in the amount of storage capacity required to house that content. This means significant increases in the demands placed on primary storage, backup, archiving and disaster recovery solutions.

Storage Implications
One of the cloud’s primary advantages is that it can lower TCO by fully optimizing hardware usage. According to Symantec’s report, only 31% of total capacity within the firewall is being utilized. Cloud computing solves this issue by consolidating hardware resources, but managing TCO is still no easy task.

Storage is not an isolated element within the data center. Therefore, factors that impact storage hardware will result in significant changes in the TCO of the rest of the system. These costs consist of more than just acquisition because maintaining stored information requires financial, human, physical and environmental resources.

These interconnected factors can cause TCO to rise dramatically in response to a single change in the data center as a whole. For example, when new information enters the cloud ecosystem, it not only affects capacity, but could change how well the system performs and the energy required to run the infrastructure, and may raise drive retirement costs. As information volumes continue to expand, it is likely that demands related to energy usage, security and maintenance, as well as storage capacity, will grow.

The cloud model simplifies this by consolidating many hardware resources and ultimately lowering TCO. However, consolidation means that each device stores more data. Cloud customers reduce their TCO by looking for scalable platforms that can meet the demands of evolving business processes, and open-source solutions to avoid vendor lock-in. This ultimately means that cloud data centers must be able to accommodate rapid scale without drastically increasing TCO. In addition, operators must accomplish all of this without sacrificing performance or reliability.

Reducing Storage TCO: A Comprehensive Approach
The most obvious way to lower TCO is to simply lower the cost of capacity. Seagate recently added the Enterprise Value HDD to an already robust line of solid state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD) that serve cloud compute and cloud storage environments. The Seagate® Enterprise Value HDD family is targeted at cloud service providers that require high capacity and low power at a cost per terabyte that enables greater adoption of bulk cloud storage applications. Many have asked if the Seagate Enterprise Value HDD is the cloud drive from Seagate. The answer is no. There is no single Seagate cloud drive. In fact, all of the Seagate enterprise-class drives are cloud drives, given that each cloud application or architecture may be unique, demanding different workload, capacity, power performance and cost metrics. Drive workload, capacity, power, performance and acquisition costs are only a few of the many metric variables that impact TCO. Scalability, security, density, serviceability and disposal are additional variables at play. Each of these variables, and many more, directly impacts data center resources, whether they be financial, physical, human or environmental. Seagate describes this as the strategic application of storage that explains how leveraging Seagate technology, products, features and services can help lower TCO.

Improving the technology itself is the most direct way to lower storage TCO. Rather than focus on a single aspect, Seagate invests in helping lower TCO across the device lifecycle. Energy-efficient cloud storage design lowers power usage per terabyte, while solutions such as the Enterprise Value HDD allow for lower acquisition cost per TB. This ultimately translates to higher capacities and performance with lower costs.

Seagate technology streamlines IT operations by making many processes as simple as possible. In addition, solutions address the numerous what-if scenarios that data center operators are likely to contend with. By improving disaster preparedness, for example, customers suffer less downtime and are better able to meet service-level agreements (SLA). However, these solutions extend beyond the technological. By improving recovery and drive retirement processes, time spent managing IT assets can be reduced to further lower TCO.

Not every piece of information needs to or should be stored in maximum-performance technology. For this reason, leveraging a portfolio of HDDs and SSDs is a critical component for optimizing the data center. The Seagate product roadmap for data center devices includes the industry’s widest selection.

Selecting the right combination of drives depends greatly on the performance metrics the data center must meet. It may be that current storage demands require enterprise-grade SSD drives, but perhaps traditional desktop hardware could also meet expectations. The Seagate device portfolio and support services allow customers to select from the best hardware, whether they’re judging primarily by cost-per-IOPS or cost-per-terabyte. By creating a strategic framework for selection, companies are better able to align their device choices to specific objectives.

Seagate PowerChoice™ technology reduces hard drive energy consumption, Seagate RAID Rebuild™ technology reduces time-to-recovery, Seagate Instant Secure Erase (ISE) makes retirement more efficient and Self-Encrypting Drives (SED) help to maintain data security.

  • Seagate PowerChoice technology: Power usage is one of the significant costs that emerges. HDDs can remain idle for a certain amount of time, but customers still expect the technology to respond rapidly as needed. This limits the ability to use traditional energy-saving solutions. However, PowerChoice technology can reduce energy costs during idle times, affording up to a 54% reduction in total energy used without reducing performance.
  • For context, the average desktop HDD uses approximately 5 to 15 watts of energy. So 1000 hard drives, each running at approximately 10 watts, translates to approximately 240 kilowatt hours per day, or 86,400 per year. The average cost per kwh in the United States is approximately 13 cents, meaning that running these drives would cost approximately US$11,232—just in energy usage. However, using PowerChoice technology would bring annual power consumption down to 46,656 kwh, or about US$6,056.

  • Seagate RAID Rebuild technology: There are numerous what if scenarios that can cause expenses to escalate rapidly. For example, what happens if a drive fails? RAID recovery is an industry standard solution, but the technology was not initially designed for the volume of information in today’s data centers. DragonSlayer Consulting’s report, Ignore the Impending RAID Catastrophe at Your Own Risk, summarizes the problem: Analysts estimated that a rebuild of a 2TB hard drive in RAID-5 would take as many as 50 to 60 hours, assuming the task is set at high priority. And considering that 99.98% or higher uptime guarantees are becoming common value propositions, a single 50-hour downtime could lead to reimbursing customers for broken SLAs.
  • RAID recovery takes so long in part because RAID uses other drives to rebuild the data. This is inefficient and places a strain on the rest of the system, causing performance degradation. Seagate RAID Rebuild™ technology, on the other hand, first attempts to recover data from the failed drive, yielding two core benefits: 1) reduced time-to-recovery, and 2) lower performance drain on the rest of the system. Because the recovery process relies less on other hardware, the chance of secondary failure is reduced.

  • Seagate SEDs and Seagate Instant Secure Erase: With more information moving to the cloud, the average data center potentially stores hundreds of thousands of electronic personal records. When the hardware leaves the center, the administrator loses control. Further complicating the issue, physically destroying the drive may leave stripes intact and sensitive information vulnerable.

  • Seagate Instant Secure Erase, which comes with SED technology, solves two TCO challenges by: 1) allowing administrators to easily erase data by issuing system commands, and 2) making the retirement process more efficient. ISE also keeps the hardware intact, allowing for repurposing or warranty returns. With SED technology, the drive is automatically encrypted, rendering data left on the drive useless to a third party that acquires it after it leaves the data center.

Services and Support
The majority (up to 70%) of IT budgets are spent on managing existing infrastructure and operations, according to Forrester. This means there is not much room for growing operations, and IT asset management accounts for a large portion of TCO.

Seagate services and support are designed to aid customers in developing a storage management strategy that streamlines and automates day-to-day IT processes. Seagate helps customers in planning their deployments long-term, so that products and features continue to meet demands in three or five years from the time of acquisition.

The Strategic Application of Storage
Evolving technology has put pressure on enterprises and data center administrators to undertake comprehensive storage planning to keep costs under control. Seagate has made strategic investments in the hardware that forms the backbone of the cloud computing infrastructure, allowing customers and partners to build high-performing architecture to scale and within budgetary requirements. The strategic application of storage helps lower TCO through technology advances that drive higher capacity, performance and reliability at lower costs.

Through a comprehensive product portfolio that delivers the right device or mix of storage devices for any workload, companies are better positioned to align hardware choices to their unique needs. And, through features that enable customers to leverage the device to do more, Seagate customers can maximize return on investment for each device.

Specialized services and support offered by Seagate can further manage TCO by reducing time spent on tactical IT infrastructure and operations— enabling strategic asset planning and improved system optimization. Furthermore, through the Seagate Cloud Builder Alliance, solution providers gain access to a comprehensive portfolio of products and the expertise to help maximize their hardware.

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